« AnteriorContinuar »
rupted again for the sake of man's iniquity ; or as the text itself expresses it, though the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth, Gen. viii. 21. With respect to this covenant of temporal blessings given to Noah, and to the second covenant of future glory given to Christ, must St. Paul be understood to speak, when he says, Godliness is profitable to all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. In any other view the words are capable of no exposition consistent with experience; or with the admonitions of the Gospel, which warn the righteous to expect sufferings in this world : but true it is, that for godliness' sake the promise of the life that now is was confirmed with Noah; and for the same reason was the covenant of better hopes confirmed with Christ.
These allusions, and many more, suppose a restoration of the earth after the flood, and a new blessing given to it in virtue of God's covenant; and without this supposition I know not how to account for some passages in Scripture which speak of the goodness of the earth, and the great plenty it affords. How comes it to pass, that this very earth, cursed with barrenness, and to be a nursery for thorns and thistles, is afterwards represented as flowing with milk and honey, abounding with oil and wine, and every thing useful and pleasant in life? Can you imagine this land of plenty to be part of the cursed earth, doomed to bear thorns and thistles, and to weary out its inhabitants with toil and labour? Yet this is the case, if no alteration has happened ; and it will be no easy work to reconcile these contradictions. But if the curse upon the earth was expiated at the
flood, if the earth has been once more blessed by its Creator, there wants no art or invention to solve this difficulty: the thing speaks for itself.
I will leave this point upon these reasons : whether they are sufficient to establish an opinion so contrary to the prejudices of mankind, I know not ; they seem to me at least to be worth considering.
Let us consider now the state of prophecy after the flood, and upon what foot the religion of the new world fubfifted.
I find no new prophecy given to Noah after the flood, nor to any of his children till the call of Abraham. The reason of it seems to be this; the power and sovereignty of God were so manifestly displayed in the deluge, and made so strong impressions upon the few persons then alive, and came so well attested to the succecding generation, that religion wanted no other support: when idolatry prevailed, and the world was in danger of being quite loft to true religion, without the interposition of God, the word of prophecy was renewed; as we shall find when we come to that period. It
may seem surprising, perhaps, that, after so great a revolution in the world as the deluge made, God should say nothing to the remnant of mankind of the punishments and rewards of another life, but hould make a new covenant with them relating merely to fruitful seasons, and the blessings of the earth. All that I can say to this difficulty is this ; I think I see plainly a gradual working of Providence towards the redemption of the world from the curse of the fall; that the temporal blessings were first reftored, as an earnest and pledge of better things to
follow ; that the covenant of the age given to Noah had, strictly speaking, nothing to do with the hopes of futurity, which were reserved to be the matter of another covenant in another age, and to be revealed by him, whose province it was to bring life and inmortality to light through the Gospel.
The law of Moses, though a divine revelation, and introduced to serve and advance the great ends of Providence with respect to mankind, yet, being given in the age of the first covenant, was in all things made conformable to it; and was founded in no other express promises, than those of temporal happiness and prosperity ; in no other express threatenings, than those of temporal loss and misery. Abraham's temporal covenant was the same in kind with Noah's, though much enlarged and reestablished upon further promises and assurances : as the curse upon the ground for the wickedness of Cain was of the very same kind with the curse of the fall; differing from it not in kind, but in degree.
But though the first covenant given to Noah, and the law of Moses, founded upon the terms of that covenant, contain no express promises of future rewards, yet is it not to be imagined that all who lived under this covenant were void of such hopes and expectations. If there were any such hopes before the flood, grounded upon the prophecy confequent to the fall, the coming in of the flood could not destroy them ; and the covenant of temporal blessings given to Noah was so far from superseding better hopes, that it did mightily strengthen and confirm them. For if Noah and his forefathers expected deliverance from the whole curse of the fall, the actual deliverance
from one part of it was a very good pledge of a further deliverance to be expected in due time. Man himself was cursed as well as the ground; he was doomed to return to duft ; and fruitful feafons are but a small relief, compared to the greatness of his lofs : but when fruitful seasons came, and one part of the curse was evidently abated, it gave great assurance that the other should not last for ever.
That Noah had such expectations himself, and transmitted them to his pofterity, seems evident from the peculiar blessing which he bestows on Shem. Blessed, says he, be the Lord God of Shem : Canaan shall be his servant. God fhall enlarge Japhet, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem. Gen. ix. 26, 27. Why the God of Shem, and not the God of Japhet? As to the behaviour of these two sons toward their father, it was the same; they joined in the pious office done to him ; in this respect then they were equal, and equally deserving of a blessing: if any preference was due to either from the father, it was to Japhet his firstborn ; for so he was, though commonly last named when the sons of Noah are mentioned together. This being the case, how comes Shem to be preferred? And what is the blessing conveyed to him? The temporal covenant it could not be, for that was before confirmed with all the fons of Noah. Day and night, summer and winter, seed-time and harvest, were a common gift to the world, bestowed, as our blessed Lord observes, on the evil as well as on the good. The blessing therefore peculiar to Shem was no part of the temporal covenant; nor was it any thing in the power of his father to bestow; for then his elder brother, equally obedient and respectful to his father, must have been served before him. Of what other blessing Noah had any notion, can never be imagined, unless we feek for it among the hopes he conceived of further deliverance from the curse, grounded upon
the divine promise, that the feed of the woman should finally prevail ; the right to which promise was conveyed to him before the flood, With thee will I establish my covenant, Gen vi. 18. For Noah had, not only the temporal covenant given to him and his fons, but he was also, as the Apostle to the Hebrews tells us, heir of the righteousness which is by faith, ch. xi. 7. If this be the case, then Noah's blessing is like unto Lamech's prophecy; for as Lamech forefaw that Noah should receive from God the cove. nant of the earth's restoration; so Noah foresaw, that the greater blessing still behind, even the covenant that should restore man to himself and to his Maker, should be conveyed through the posterity of Shem. This accounts for the preference given to Shem; for Noah spoke not his own choice, but declared the counsel of God, who had now, as he frequently did afterwards, chosen the younger before the elder.